The West

More children and teens treated in hospital after getting drunk.

Perth ambulances were called to treat 12 drunk patients a day last year, including young children, in what experts say is a worsening binge drinking problem.

New figures from St John Ambulance show it responded to 4382 "alcohol-induced" call-outs, 12 per cent more than in 2012.

More than 400 calls were for people aged under 18, including 15 under 12, up from seven in 2012. Most had to go to hospital.

Metropolitan ambulance general manager James Sherriff said the rise in alcohol-related call-outs was a concern and too often ambulance officers saw situations where people made poor decisions about drinking.

"Their judgment becomes impaired and they take risks they wouldn't if sober and the impacts of these decisions can be deadly," he said. "The level of intoxication may be very bad and the result is someone having to spend a day or two in a hospital bed recovering, but far worse are the secondary problems that result when people are affected by alcohol.

"These range from serious assaults to car crashes and things like spinal injuries and sadly these can be life-changing."

McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth director Mike Daube said the figures were alarming because they were primarily about intoxication and did not include alcohol-related harm such as from falls, assaults and road crashes.

"This is very disturbing evidence that alcohol problems are increasing, along with totally unnecessary costs to the health system," he said. "The figures for young people are of great concern, especially as they are the tip of the iceberg.

"The increase in under-12s is shocking because these are very young children so drunk that someone has to call an ambulance."

Professor Daube said he felt for ambulance staff, who sometimes had to deal with the tragic consequences.

He hoped it would convince the State Government to legislate on secondary supply and controlled purchase operations to prevent supply of alcohol to children.

Mr Sherriff said despite the rising numbers, if people came across someone suffering adverse effects from alcohol or drugs they should never hesitate to call for an ambulance because it was often vital people got care from paramedics.

The service welcomed any programs and education that diverted people from alcohol and drugs.

The West Australian

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